Life Flashing By: Dys4ia

By Adam Smith on March 12th, 2012 at 4:08 pm.

Hey look, I made a spelling blunder when I named this file!

There aren’t many autobiographical games, unless I’ve got the wrong idea entirely and the majority of developers fought in make believe versions of wars and have the ability to recover from multiple bullet wounds by standing behind a fence for ten seconds. This new browser-based piece from Anna Anthropy is a chapter of the author’s life though and it’s an insight into intimate moments and tough decisions. Dys4ia is personal, revealing, angry, sad, loving and seemingly very honest indeed. As for interaction, it’s lots of extremely tiny games in a way, with one story connecting them. Take a look.

Have you already taken that look, like wot I told you? If not, and if you’re put off by the idea that it might not be interactive enough for you or that you won’t care about the subject matter, give it a click anyway, unless you’re at work since you’ll really want sound and some of the graphics might not go down well. You’ll have a good idea of what’s in store about thirty seconds in and if you don’t like it, move on, no harm done. I think the limited interaction works, sometimes adding to the awkwardness, sometimes highlighting the irrationality of attempting to emulate these actions, feelings and thoughts.

As for the content, at times I felt a little uncomfortable because it was like reading the diary of someone I’ve never met, but maybe it’s more a letter than a diary and maybe I’m just an intensely private and British individual who fears the idea of people knowing real things about me. We’re certainly all invited to look at Dys4ia and I’m pleased to have been invited to because these are experiences that I found informative and moving, and I wouldn’t ask for any more out of a conversation, never mind a ten minute Flash game.

The mishapes ill-formed by the limited visuals are effective communicators of extreme discomfort and the moments of beauty that break through the broad strokes worked for me. Special mention has to go to Liz Ryerson’s music, which managed to make me a little bit misty-eyed by the end, in combination with the pleasing sense of something shared.

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18 Comments »

  1. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Actual gameplay in a RPS-recommended game? Hold still my beating heart

  2. Koozer says:

    I can’t actually work out what the author started as (in the game).
    Also; ignoring blood pressure is silly.

    • kastanok says:

      SPOILER (sorta?)

      They’re Male-To-Female. Hence being called ‘Sir’ by people she meets and shouting ‘Ma’am’ back at them, breasts getting bigger, having to shave at first etc…

  3. Justoffscreen says:

    Anything by Anna Anthropy makes me sit up and pay attention. The gaming world needs people like her and I respect her immensely. This game was touching and gave me a brutally honest glimpse into Anna’s experience as a trans individual. I was quite pleased to find her trademark humor was intact, and the music set the tone of the game perfectly. The gameplay itself is masterfully created to compliment, and be complimented by the game’s text in ways that would not have had nearly the same effect with text or gameplay alone.

    I’m glad I got to find out more about her world.

  4. Zanchito says:

    Well, that was a rather smart way to tell a story, moving, even. I loved the sound also.

  5. anotherman7 says:

    Absolutely lovely thing. Always been into Anna’s work and I’m fascinated to see something that’s so personal. Here’s wishing her the best.

  6. Randomer says:

    Very interesting. I wonder how I missed the first three games in this series.

  7. kastanok says:

    I’m stuck on the first screen of Chapter 2. But not in the game.

    Heh.

    EDIT: It’s only JUST clicked what the title refers to. It should have been obvious, I’m subject to and talk about gender dysphoria all the time.

  8. Dead_Cheiftain says:

    A nice wee mixture of mini-games let down by it’s simplicity and inability for players to loose. Also I’m of the opinion that the concept of a “autobiographical game” is inherently self-indulgent and crass; games work best when they offer the player choice and force them to deal with the consequences and for me that doesn’t work well with a “Look at me! This is my story…” type narrative.

    All that said Dys4ia did, erm, hoodwink me into experiencing a corner of the human condition would normally have zero interest in which is admirable I suppose.

    • Stense says:

      I get the impression that it being presented as a game is purely to act as a framing device for the autobiograpical story, to help visualise it for people who would never have considered the turmoil that a trans person is going through. I’m not sure it’s intented to be a game, just an interactive story. To try to make the interaction into an actual game would cheapen the message in my opinion.

      Thought it was very well made myself.

      • Dreforian says:

        I can attest to this. Played a free indie game called ReMission where you acted as a miniature medical robot to carry out treatments for cancer patients. It was very educational but often lacked the emotional dimension often inherent to surviving cancer.

  9. mechabuddha says:

    Thank you for this.

  10. Flaringo says:

    I liked it!

  11. RSeldon says:

    Oh, good stuff. Some pieces of the game really struck a chord. I’m currently stuck in the early stages of the Medical Bullshit level in my own life (though heading in a different direction — I’m FtM), and augh, that stupid “psych exam” form brought back memories. X-|

    Anyway, I thought the whole thing was a really creative and touching way of conveying a piece of Anna’s life, and of giving a glimpse at experiences that are unfamiliar to many people. Thanks for posting about it.

  12. Ahtaps says:

    I “played” this last night and found it an interesting watch, but the interactivity felt like little more than a “Press any button to turn the page” mechanism, which was a little disappointing because there was a missed potential to engage the viewer more and communicate the frustrations and anguish felt beyond a simple button press.

    I also liked the riff on the title text for Ufouria.

  13. phlebas says:

    Nicely done. Reminded me a bit of Deus Ex Machina, especially the bit with the feminists.

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